How Asking Questions Boosts Your Career and Business

Last Updated May 1, 2009 3:41 PM EDT

Do you think you're a good manager? Have a solid grasp of functional skills? Well respected by peers and coworkers? Good relationship with your boss and employees?

Good. But how do you know? I mean, when was the last time you actually asked somebody what they thought of you or how you're doing?

Look, there's no excuse for not asking questions or conducting your own ad hoc 360 review. It's the quickest and easiest way to boost your career or improve your business. Best of all, it works for anybody at any management level in any function in any business. You can be a CEO of a Fortune 500 company or a B2B sales rep; it still works.

Here are a dozen or so examples:

  • Ask your customers what you can do to make them more successful.
  • Ask your employees what hurdles you can remove to make them more effective.
  • Ask the product line or development people what will make their jobs easier.
  • Ask your peers what kind of job they think you and your group are doing.
  • Ask sales what they need to sell more efficiently.
  • Ask your boss what she needs from you to manage up more effectively.
  • Ask customer service what the top call center issues are.
  • Ask your controller or CFO for the top three things you can do to help control expenses.
  • Ask your engineers what tools and resources they'd like to have.
  • Ask human resources who they think are your best and worst performing employees.
  • Ask your administrative assistant how her day is going.
  • Ask a research and development staffer what he's working on.
Most importantly, don't just do it gratuitously to check someone off your list. That's wasting their time which is worse than doing nothing. Instead, listen to the answers. Write them down and look for common threads. If you take it seriously and use the data to affect change, it's worth your time and theirs.

It doesn't matter if your company has a process to determine some of this stuff. When you ask questions like these one-on-one you'll typically get way more straightforward answers than you'd get from any process or in a meeting.

You'll be amazed by what you find out and the effect it has on your management skills and business success. Really.